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Thread: Bids

  1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber CordovaFire's Avatar
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    Default Bids

    We were lucky enough to be awarded a truck in round 1, is there a specific bid process required under these grants? With the equipment grants in the past we just had several quoted prices from different venders. Some people have said sealed bids, at least 5 bids, sealed bids not required, no bids????? We know what we want but what is the correct and legal way to do this?


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    Per the PG:

    (5) Ensure all procurement actions are conducted in a manner that provides, to the maximum extent possible, open and free competition. In doing so, the grantee must follow its established procurement processes when purchasing vehicles, equipment, and services with the grant funds. If the grantee has no established procedures, it should obtain at least two quotes/bids for the items being procured and document in the grant
    files the process used. Sole-source purchasing is not an acceptable procurement method except in unusual circumstances.
    The key part is to document what you do. Keep a list of which manufacturers were sent the specs, place all bids in the file along with letters stating companies that will not bid on the apparatus.

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    You don't need to do sealed bids unless your local area requires it.

    Just have anyone that turns down the pricing request to document that also just in case you end up with only 1 price. It's not your problem if no one else wants your money, so as long as it's documented you won't get beat up over it.

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    Forum Member SLY4420's Avatar
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    When we were awarded for our Rescue/Pumper in 2004, we speced our truck and sent the specs to 4 manufacturers. 2 did not return bids, and 1 contacted us and said that they did not feel they could build what we were looking for. That left us with only one option.

    When the Grant Specialist came to our station to do the follow up, I basically explained that to them and that was good enough for them. I documented as best as I could, but they understand that if a manufacturer doesn't call me back, I can't help it.

    Apparatus is a bit of a different game since you're dealing with specific things unlike equipment since you should easily be able to get multiple bids.

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    It is much more than just "3 bids" and the short paragraph in the grant guidance.

    Cash managament of federal grant funds varies by state. Article XI - General Provisions of your grant award notification references OMB Circular A-110. Yes, it is lengthy, however I suggest your read it, expecially Subpart C.40 - 48. (you can find this on OMB's website. Just google it)

    Subpart C.43 Competition states:
    All procurement transactions shall be conducted in a manner to provide to the maximium extent practical, open and free competition. The recipient shall be alert to organizational conflicts of interest as wll as noncompetitive practices among contractors that restrict or eliminate competition or otherwise restrain trade. In order to ensure objective contractor performance and eliminate unfair competitive advantage, constractors that develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, invitation for bids, and/or requests for proposals shall be excluded from competing for such procurements. Awards shall be made to the bidder or offeror whose bid or offer is responsive to the solicitation and is most advantageous to the recipient, price, quality and other factors considered. Solicitations shall clearly set forth all requirements that the bidder or offeror shall fulfull in order for the bid or offer to be evaluated by the recipient. Any an all bids or offers may be rejected when it is in the recipient's interest to do so.

    Subpart C.44.3.Solicitations for goods and services provide for all the following:
    (i)A clear and accurate description of the technical requirements for the material, product, or service to be procured. In competitive procurements, such a description shall not contain features which unduly restrict competition.

    In Alabama, Chapter 16, Article 2-Competitive Bidding on Public Contracts, Generally, is the guide to use for procurement with federal funds. If you are in doubt, contact the state of Alabama's Division of Purchasing or someone at the Alabama League of Municipalities.

    The state of Georgia, does not require competitive bidding for fire trucks, so it is handled very differently there.

    I am a city clerk for my city and an accountant, so I get asked about this alot. Remember, these are FEDERAL tax dollars, so the standard of accountability is much higher, as are the Governmental Accounting Standards. This is not the money you raised by selling bar-b-ques or other fundraisers you are used to spending like you want to.

    The truck vendor motto "write the spec, get the check" often times creates an unfair advantage for the vendor that "helped" you write your spec. Most of the time a vendor who is cut out of the process doesn't complain because they do not want to be labeled as causing trouble, however this does not preclude the process from being unfair. I understand from various fire chiefs that this is the way fire trucks are sold. But it doesn't mean it is fair or right or more importantly, legal. In a nutshell, if a vendor gives you a spec to use, they should not be allowed to bid on the product, according to this OMB Circular.

    Remember to keep all documents pertaining to your bid process. These are publice documents and subject to review by anyone who wants to see them.

    I urge you to be cautious and just follow the law. If you are unsure about the law, check with an official that can help you. My motto in city business is don't do anything you don't want to read about in the paper the next day with your name next to it.

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    To be accurate, management of federal funds doesn't vary by state according to the feds. Spending of taxpayer monies does regardless of source. The feds allow the states to have more stringent requirements and the feds will back them. But if the states have less stringent regulations then you have to follow the federal guidelines. So GA departments are not exempt from obtaining two or more bids on apparatus just because the state allows it because the feds don't. The only exceptions are purchasing co-ops or state bid lists.

    It is also illegal for vendors to require customers to sign a contract to purchase when providing 'free' grant help. I've been hearing rumors of this for years. Which is why I beat it into all of the vendors I work with that the only thing they should say it we have free help if you want it, no strings attached. I have turned down departments that want to hire me separately to administer the grant that I worked on through the free assistance programs because I don't want any hint of impropriety. I have the same view as wildcat on reading about me in the paper. The only Brian Vickers I want to read about there is in the sports section.

    And I'll talk to him about running Dale Jr off the track when I get a chance.

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    i don't have any idea of it.

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    If you are supported by tax funds or if you are under a municpality, Then you are required to bid out any item over 7,500.00. This is a state of alabama law. Email me or leave a message here and I will help you through the process as I have over 20 years doing this, I'm also just up the road from you a bit.

    Steve

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    Speaking of bids in general, be specific if you're asking for accurate pricing on items. Some are under the impression that the DHS regs state that you can't ask for certain types of things as part of the bid. To be open as possible I wouldn't name brand names unless required by interoperability arguments. But if you need something like mounting brackets, you can ask for metal, rubber, NFPA, non-NFPA, whatever you want. If you just ask for 'mounting bracket' you'll get pricing all over the board because everyone will bid something different. Make sure you are asking for what you want. If you want metal brackets because they'll last, then ask for metal ones. If a vendor only carries rubber ones, and that excludes them then oh well. Don't shortchange your citizens, the department, or your award by backing away from what you need to really solve your problem.

    And if all else fails, run it by the FPS for your area. They're the ones coming to do the site audit, so if they approve it beforehand they can't ding you for it at audit time.

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    Compliance with Alabama's Competitive Bid Law is in the spotlight right now.
    The Alabama Fire College and state 2 year college system is under a federal investigation for a number of issues, one of those being compliance with the competitive bid law.

    According to the award notification, OMB A-110 is the basic rule. However, the state law may be more strict. Check with your state department of purchasing. They are usually more educated and knowledgeable about this issue.

    I don't know about other states, but in Alabama any fire department that receives tax funds (local, state or federal) is required to comply with the competitive bid law. Many people, even ones in the department, are not aware of this. The main reason is that departments receive funds annually from the Alabama Forestry Commission.

    FYI - the Alabama Attorney General's office recently issued an opinion #2006-018 that states:

    "A volunteer fire department certified by the Alabama Forestry Commission is subject to the Open Meetings Act."

    "A county volunteer fire association is subject to the Open Meetings Act."

    This makes any financial business conducted by the department open to public inspection.

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